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Archbishop Elpidophoros of America Defies Opposition in Visit to Holy Mount Athos

Elpidophoros Athos
The monastery of Saint Dionysios at Mount Athos. Credit: Fingalo, CC BY-SA 2.0 de/Wikipedia commons

Archbishop Elpidophoros, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, has announced a visit to Mount Athos, the most important center of Eastern Orthodox monasticism, despite  some monasteries who expressed concern about his views on same-sex marriage.

According to a release by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America on Thursday, Elpidophoros will make a week-long visit to Mount Athos on the occasion of the Feast of Epiphany accompanied by forty pilgrims from the Archdiocese. The pilgrimage will begin on January 18, 2024.

Earlier, members of the monastic community of Mount Athos had written a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew saying that Elpidophoros is not welcome to visit the Holy Mountain.

The letter published by the Greek American newspaper National Herald notes that Elpidophoros performed in 2022 the first openly gay couple’s children’s baptism in Athens.

The Representatives of the Greek Orthodox Monasteries wrote, “We regret to have found, through the published photographs of the Archbishop of America, a wrong impression was created regarding the Church’s acceptance of the marriage of individuals of the same sex. This message is contrary to the doctrines and teachings of the Orthodox Church.”

They appealed to the Patriarch, stating, “We ask that you listen to our concerns on this extremely sensitive subject, which concerns the integrity of our faith and orthodox traditions.”

Elpidophoros Athos
Archbishop Elpidophoros at Mt. Athos at a previous visit to Mount Athos. Credit: Vatopedi Monastery

According to the National Herald, the monasteries do not plan to welcome Elpidophoros at Athos, which is ecclesiastically under the direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

Elpidophoros criticized at Athos

In 2022, Elpidophoros made an unannounced trip to Vouliagmeni, south of Athens, to baptize the children of actor Evangelo Bousis and fashion designer Peter Dundas. The children were born from a surrogate mother.

The two gay men, have grown up in the Orthodox Community and have been close to the Archbishop for a long time.

Bousis thanked the Archbishop on social media for his progressive stance of “love with no judgment” and for serving what he says is the “first openly gay baptism” in the Greek Church.

The Greek Holy Synod had sent a letter of protest to Patriarch Bartholomew. Responding to the criticism leveled by conservative clerics at the time, Elpidophoros defended his action.

“Anyone who asks me to baptize their child I will do it, regardless of who it is. I baptize children and I don’t care about the personal life of their parents. I don’t judge people’s lives,” he told Greek daily Espresso.

The Archbishop was reportedly severely reprimanded during a session of the Holy Synod of Constantinople.

Elpidophoros was hoping to visit Athos on the sidelines of his visit to Thessaloniki scheduled for later in January.

Greece vows to legalize same-sex marriage

The news comes as Greece’s government announced recently that it will follow through on a pledge to legalize same-sex marriage, defying the country’s powerful Orthodox Church.

Government spokesperson, Pavlos Marinakis says the law will be introduced in Parliament during the current session, which ends in 2027.

In July, PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced his intention to legalize same-sex marriage during his second term in office, declaring that “same-sex marriage will happen at some point, and it’s part of our strategy.”

He went on to emphasize that “Greek society is much more ready and mature.” The announcement comes after the Church’s ruling Holy Synod delivered a 1,500-word document late Wednesday opposing the measure.

The church clarified that it does not disagree with same-sex civil marriages as it is indifferent to the sex of couples and is something that does not concern Orthodox Christian tradition.

However, their concerns remain around parenting, which they disagree with because “it does not satisfy the rights of children to have both a father and a mother.”

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